Key plan of Newark Church.
Key plan of Newark Church.

If the day be clear the visitor should ascend the tower and enjoy the view from the battlements. Lincoln Minster is discernible on the north-eastern horizon, and Belvoir Castle to the southward, while the town of Newark lies in a panorama beneath, warm red pantiles distinguishing its older portion from the slate-roofed buildings of the outer and more modern part.

Before returning to the interior of the church, the Sanctus Bellcote at the west end of the chancel roof should be noticed. The bell has long been lost, and the bellcote serves as a support for the flag-staff.

After examining the tower, we re-enter the church, and, turning to the right, inspect the south aisle of the nave, which is the next oldest portion of the present building. It is an excellent specimen of the Decorated period at its best. The windows have flowing tracery of great beauty, with quatre-foils between, shafted jambs, and mullions enriched with little capitals and bases. Outside, the buttresses have crocketed gable heads (in the two western-most with projecting canopies) and niches for images. The building of this aisle was begun pursuant to a licence issued by Archbishop Grenefield in February, 1313, when the completion of the tower and the entire re-building of the church on a large scale was apparently contemplated. For the next twenty-five years the work appears to have made steady progress, the tower being completed and spire added, as we have seen, and this aisle built.

The foundations of the outer walls appear also to have been laid, entirely enclosing the smaller twelfth or thirteenth century church, and the walls themselves built up to the plinth, which is uniform all round. At the east end of the chancel the fourteenth century buttresses suggest that at that point their work was carried higher, though not to completion, and the old chancel would probably be left still standing, two bays further in. Then came, in 1349, that terrible scourge, the Black Death, the most devastating pestilence England has ever seen. More than half of the whole population of the realm died within a few months. All business and labour was dislocated; church building, then in progress in all parts of the country, was brought to a sudden standstill, and, craftsmen and labourers alike being dead, for the most part remained at a standstill for a whole generation. Many are the churches throughout England whose "stories in stone" tell to the trained eye, with mute pathos, the tale of this awful calamity as the cause of the break in their structural continuity.

Thus a long interval elapsed before the inhabitants had means and heart to finish their church, and when they did proceed with it the designs of the old craftsmen had been forgotten, and a new architectural era had begun in England, so that the remainder of the church belongs to Perpendicular style and period. Work was probably started on the nave as early as 1390, but the bulk of the fabric belongs to the next century.

From documentary evidence it seems probable that the north aisle of the nave was finished before 1460, and the whole of the chancel completed by 1498. The stone chantry chapels on the north and south sides of the altar were founded in 1500 and 1505 respectively. The fine parclose screen was completed in 1508, Thomas Drawswerd, of York, being "kerver.'' The chancel stalls were not added until about 1525, and it is possible that the great transepts were not quite finished, nor the sacristy or vestry added, until nearly that date.

Among the minor architectural details, and the furniture, fittings and ornaments of the church, the following should be noticed —

THE SCREEN.—The parclose and rood screen, carved, as has been said, by Thomas Drawswerd, of York, and finished in 1508, is a handsome and imposing structure. The centre part has a projection eastward, forming a canopy over its gateway. The rood-loft is reached by a circular staircase in the south pier of the chancel arch. On the outer face of this pier, near the iron gates of the south aisle, will be noticed one of the private marks of the mediaeval masons, two obtuse triangles joined at the apex, a mark which the craftsman has repeated on the face of every stone of this column as high as the eye can see.

Parclose screen and choir stalls.
Parclose screen and choir stalls.
One of the miserere seats.
One of the miserere seats.

MISERICORDS.—The chancel stalls should be noticed. They contain a fine series of twenty-six misericords, seats which turn up and form a ledge which serves to rest the weak or indolent in a leaning postion. The under ledges are grotesquely carved in great variety of designs. These stalls were made at the end of the first quarter of the sixteenth century.

Above the rood screen is suspended a modern cross of somewhat florid design.

The large pendant gasalier is the old candelabra adapted to the newer illuminant.

REREDOS.—At the back of the altar is a series of thirteen cathedra, or stone seats, beneath crocketed canopies. In the centre of the cornice is a figure of the patron saint of the church, the Magdalen, holding the alabaster box of ointment.

The reredos is of stone, carved with a diaper pattern and surmounted by a cornice. It was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, the architect for the restoration of the church.

CHANTRY CHAPELS.—On either side the altar is a stone chantry chapel in the Tudor style. That on the north was founded by Thomas Mering in 1500, the one on the south by Eobert Markham in 1505. They both have a series of heraldic shields of their founders and allied families in the panels round their plinth, but the southern chapel has two features of interest of its own. The first of these is the double squint, enabling the priest saying mass at the chantry altar to see both the altar under the east window and that at the end of the south chancel aisle. The other is the curious paintings in the two easternmost panels of the mullions. One represents a well-dressed civilian with his hand in his gypciere or purse; the other a cadaver, or figure of Mortality, pointing to the grave with one hand, in the other holding a carnation, emblematic of the shortness of life. This curious painting is popularly known as the "Dance of Death." It is now very properly protected by glass.

STAINED GLASS.—Previous to the Civil War, this church was very rich in stained glass, of much of which we fortunately have record through drawings made by Sir, then Mr., Wm. Dugdale in 1641. All that remains of this glass has been gathered together and worked "crazy" fashion into the east window of the south chancel aisle. The arms of Deyncourt repeatedly occur, and there are the old Royal arms, quartering the lilies of France. Among the other subjects identifiable are fragments representing the seven deadly sins—''Gluttony" and "Anger,"being still nearly perfect, "Gluttony" having a bowl in his hand and a jug attached to his belt. "The Expulsion from Eden," "The Agony in the Garden," "The Annunciation," the "noli me tangere" incident, and "The Visitation of St. Elizabeth," can also be seen.* All the rest of the stained glass in the church is modern.

The great east window of the chancel is by Hardman, and represents the Crucifixion and Ascension. It is a memorial to the Prince Consort, and cost £ 1,050, raised by public subscription. The adjacent window of the north aisle is by the same artist. The west window in the tower was placed by public subscription to the memory of the Rev. J. G. Russell, a former vicar. It contains figures of saints of the Church before the division of East and West. It is the work of Messrs. Burlison & Grylls, of London, who also did the three windows in the north aisle of the nave. The windows on the south side of the baptistry are the work of the well-known firm of Kempe. Most of these other windows are private memorials, as may be seen from the inscriptions attached to them. The whole of the fifty clearstory windows were filled with painted glass out of the rents of Brown's Charity, an ancient endowment available for repairing and beautifying the fabric, and to which we are also indebted for the font cover.